Ghost Stories and Tall Tales of the American South

Winecoff Hotel Fire in Atlanta


Tragic Winecoff Hotel fire in Atlanta, Georgia in 1946. UPDATE: The Old Winecoff Hotel has now been transformed into the elegant Ellis Hotel.

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Longtime residents of Atlanta, Georgia might find that the events described in “One More Room” sound eerily familiar. This story is based on the fire that ravaged Atlanta’s Winecoff Hotel on December 7, 1946. The fire claimed 119 lives, and is considered to be one of the deadliest hotel fires in U.S. history. Out of respect for the dead, we changed the name of the hotel and the timeline of events.

Once heralded as “Atlanta’s Newest and Finest,” the Winecoff was a grand, 15-floor edifice that was Atlanta’s tallest hotel at the time. It was completely enclosed in brick, which led the owners to boast that it was “fireproof.” As if to further emphasize that point, the hotel had no internal sprinkler systems or fire escapes. Even though the city revised its fire codes in 1943 after a rash of hotel fires, older structures like the Winecoff were not required to install new fire safety features.

At the time of the fire, the Winecoff was filled with holiday shoppers, discharged soldiers, tourists and permanent or semi-permanent residents. Sometime around 3 a.m. on December 7th, a fire started on the third floor of the building. How the fire started has been a matter of much debate, some believing it was an accident caused by a dropped cigarette, others pointing toward arson. However the fire started, the flames quickly raced up the winding central staircases, which had no fire doors to protect each floor. In no time, the structure was ablaze.

By the time the Atlanta Fire Department arrived, the Winecoff was a scene of chaos. People were running about on the streets. Black smoke was bellowing out of the 3rd and 11th floors. Horrifying screams could be heard from inside the building, and some guests had tied sheet ropes to the upper windows, trying desperately to climb to safety. At that time, the local fire department did not have ladders tall enough to reach the upper floors. Desperate to survive, some guests jumped from their windows, many to their deaths.

After the Winecoff fire, sweeping new fire codes were passed throughout the country. Older buildings in Atlanta were quickly retrofitted with fire escapes and sprinklers, and the fire department received new equipment. Even though these changes came too late for the victims of the Winecoff fire, all hotel patrons benefit today from safety regulations put in place in reaction to this tragedy.

Hotel Winecoff Historic Marker

The Winecoff reopened in the 1950s as the Peachtree on Peachtree Hotel, then as a retirement home in the 1960s. Since then, it has changed hands several times, and currently sits vacant on the corner of Peachtree and Ellis Streets downtown. Now dwarfed by the modern hotels and office buildings around it, the Winecoff is an old, silent ghost whose story is unknown to thousands of Atlanta residents who walk past it daily. A historic marker was placed at the site in 1994.



Ellis Hotel (former Winecoff Hotel), Atlanta, GA

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Ellis Hotel (former Winecoff Hotel), Atlanta, GA 33.758269, -84.387711 Stories: One More RoomThe old Winecoff Hotel was the site of one of the worst hotel fires in American history (1946). After sitting vacant for years it has now been remodeled into the elegant Ellis Hotel, but a historic marker is still visible.


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2 Responses to “Winecoff Hotel Fire in Atlanta”

Robbie Sifres:

I like that you have put in the backstory. It makes the story even better. This site never disappoints me when I cant sleep late at night.

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